A chance for would-be actors to shine“Hello sirs, my name is Kim Mi-jin, applicant No. 1. I came all the way from Cheongju yesterday and then spent a night at a public bathhouse, for I could not find a better place. That’s why my face is puffed up and my voice is hoarse. But I’ll do my best.”
“Do a period drama piece, please.”
Silence fills the room. Amid the awkwardness, Ms. Kim, dressed in a prim business suit, breaks the ice by collapsing on the ground, suddenly in tears, and reciting a line.
She was taking part in an open contest for TV actors at KBS-TV’s Drama Center in Suwon, Gyeonggi province. Ms. Kim and her competitors were ready to make their dreams come true, to be rising stars on the local entertainment scene. Out of more than 5,000 applicants, only about 480 passed the initial screening. Ms. Kim was among the lucky ones who were given a chance for a second tryout to demonstrate their acting talent. Applicants won additional points for showing skills other than acting, such as mime, singing and dancing.
The applicants who gathered in the hall on a late fall morning were visibly nervous. Some closed their eyes, waiting for their turn and reciting their lines by heart. Another applicant, Kim Hyeon-jin, a high school student, burst into tears, saying, “I got cold feet and all the lines slipped out of my mind.”
Most of the applicants, typically in their early 20s, majored in acting in college. But there also were late bloomers who could not give up their acting dreams. Kim Eun-gyeong, a 26-year-old from Daegu whose major was nursing, says, “I came to Seoul three years ago, after quitting the hospital. I went to a private acting institute and tried to get my face known by having several roles as an extra in TV dramas and TV commercials. Even if I don’t make it, I will not give in.” Ms. Kim sounded determined.
This enthusiasm, however, was not enough to influence six jurors, who gave the applicants a hard time. In the midst of such an atmosphere, the applicants did their best to make a stronger impression.
Evaluation criteria are divided into three categories ― a total of 50 points for looks, 30 for expression and another 20 for potential. One of the jurors, Lee Eung-jin, who produced the hit miniseries “Cheotsarang” (First Love), said, “I’ve been on the entertainment scene for more than two decades now. Just give me 10 seconds and I know whether an applicant will make it or not.”
Korea’s three major TV stations, KBS, MBC and SBS, all resumed open calls for TV actors this year. SBS announced six successful candidates last month.
After passing the second acting test, applicants still must go through more tests ― a camera test, followed by the final general tests. Ten applicants at most are expected to be chosen. Even after this, there is no guarantee that an actor will become a star. Jeong Ui-gap, who passed the test in 1995 and now has a role in a period drama on KBS, says, “It’s not easy to attract attention. Extremely few actors become big stars. They’d better think about just making a living in acting, and give up dreams of being a star.”
by Choi Min-woo